Saturday, 14 December 2013

The ties that bind

I've felt like this before, when Django went to stay in Scotland with Mr H for a month or more - what is the point of life with nothing to care for?  Is it a human or a female need to care for a vulnerable person or animal? Something that relies on you totally?

It may annoy us sometimes, the ties and the inability to be 'free', but it gives us a good reason to get up in the morning.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Farewell to Spot..

11/12/13 might have been a lucky date for some, but for us yesterday evening marked both the end of a long friendship, and the end of an era. After a very difficult year for Django, and for me and Mr H, just one month off his 14th birthday we let our puppy go before he began suffering any more. No matter how right the decision, it is the hardest thing any pet owner has to do, and nothing prepares you for the hole it leaves in your heart.

Over those 14 years, but particularly since he became the lone dog in our house early in 2008, Django shared experiences with us from camping holidays in Scotland to patiently hanging around while we indulged our new motorsport hobby. He spent many weeks accompanying Mr H on his Forestry Commission work in Scotland in all weathers, and made human friends wherever he went.

As a youngster from 6 months old until he was about two, Django (aka Pebblegate Blackjack at Lightspeed) tolerated the dog-showing world with many class wins and a placing at Crufts Dog Show. However, he retired from the show ring when he remained smaller than the breed standard height (and we were getting tired of the politics anyway), so spent the rest of his life blissfully un-washed and un-fussed over, while retaining his fear of slippery wooden school hall floors! His early showing years did mean that he was comfortable with having his mouth / ears / feet investigated and examined, and he was totally trusting of people. On one occasion he let us extract a large piece of wood that had embedded itself in his pad, without a murmur.

Django's favourite place was on our laps at the end of the day, where he would relax like a ragdoll and drop into such a deep sleep that it was hard to wake him to put him to bed!  His clock was set for 9pm when he would come and give us That Look, before either being invited up or just working his way up one paw at a time. His other main interests were pheasants, cats, food and sitting down. Much fonder of people than other dogs, Django could take it or leave it when he met dogs on walks, and could not understand it if they tried imposing their dominance. Django had nothing to prove, he was just cool.

We will truly miss the company of this very special dog.   And the end of an era? Mr H has never known a house without dogs, and I only had a 5 year gap as a teenager, before getting my own puppy  almost 30 years ago.   Life is going to be very different....

Django on Forestry Commission duty in Scotland

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Me and Beyonce - making friends

I had a good couple of hours this morning - despite it raining I booked to go on a mini-Elephant ride (a short ride, not on a mini-elephant), as I never do that sort of thing and I needed to get out of the hotel. It's so different being somewhere alone rather than in a couple or group, especially in an unfamiliar country and culture, and I am much less likely to hire a car or do touristy things all on my own, it's far too scary!

I was picked up outside the hotel at 1130 along with a young Australian couple and a group of three Japanese, and was driven away to I know not where, since my Phuket geography is not very good other than Patong is north, Nai Harn is south, and that sort of thing.  I had been told that there were elephants down near Nai Harn so I'm guessing that is where we went.

I had been in two minds whether to go on this trip, wondering whether it was exploitation and how the elephants should be in the wild, but when we arrived the people seemed very nice and the elephants well looked after. And at least they are safe and not risking being killed for their tusks.

The first part of the trip was to feed the two very cute baby elephants (whose names I’ve forgotten) with little bananas which they would either take with trunks or ask for it straight into their mouths. Each of us then went in with them and got big suction kisses on our cheeks and ears which was very funny, they were so gentle and the ends of their trunks were surprisingly dry and not slobbery at all. With the (verbal) encouragement of their trainers/carers the youngsters then entertained us with a drum and a harmonica and played some Lady Gaga (apparently).



After much amusement doing this, we set off for our 30 minute ride on a wooden seat on the back of the elephant, complete with a safety lap belt, and umbrellas as it was still raining. Phuket is very green and tropical and getting wet really doesn’t matter much when the rain is so warm. My elephant was a 25 year old named Beyonce, apparently because she had a generously sized bottom! My ‘driver’ was quite chatty and half-way round he invited me to ride sitting behind Beyonce’s ears while he got down and walked and took photos with my camera. Of course I knew that the ‘don’t tell anyone that I let you do this’ was just a ruse to get an extra tip, as I’m sure it was standard policy despite the big sign saying that it was against the rules! But I didn’t mind because it was fun and this is Thailand.

I have to say that I didn’t feel very secure sitting there, especially with Beyonce lumbering on along the twisting path and over uneven ground following the instruction of the walking ‘driver’, but I know I would have regretted it if I hadn’t taken the opportunity. BeyoncĂ© had very tough skin and hard black hairs on her head, but even wearing shorts it didn't irritate the skin at all sitting astride her. However, I was quite relieved when could sit back in the seat again! And then we were back and it was time to climb off and feed Beyonce some bananas before the drive back to the hotel for a shower, especially to wash the elephant kisses off my neck...

Monday, 2 December 2013

Letter from Phuket 2

There was a little cock-roach-y thing in my bathroom this morning. And if I leave an open bag of sugar on the tea tray (because I don't use a whole one) then a group of little bugs take up residence - always check before using it again!  But to be honest this being the 6th time I've been here I'm used to it and it doesn't phase me any more. Just so long as the friends of the now deceased cockroach thing don't come into my bed. There have been more mozzies about than usual, probably because it's been quite thundery with heavy showers, and is forecast to be the same for the rest of the week I think.

I got a bit of a lie-in this morning, having gone back to sleep and woken up at what I thought was 8.30am - what!? - but turned out to be 7.30 as my watch had clicked forward to HKG time. I had my customary breakfast of fruit salad and yoghurt, fried egg or omelette, and toast. I'm afraid I cannot stomach pate or spicy potatoes for breakfast. Lunch is usually either a rice or noodles dish with varying levels of spicy-ness and you have to watch out for the red and green bits....

So, it's Monday and I'm enjoying some time off although I do need to get on with some of my normal work. The wifi connection here is pretty dire though so there is much swearing, clenching of fists and hair-tearing going on. They are also doing some electricity works outside the hotel apparently so we keep having powercuts too. Those words 'your connection has been lost, trying to re-connect, attempt 3 of 20' are enough to turn the air blue especially when there is an owner waiting by the table for information.


Everything got pretty much sorted by the briefing at 4.30pm yesterday.  Last year we extended the measurement to 3 days from 2, and it has made a huge difference;  a lot of boats were done and dusted on Friday which meant that blood-pressure on Saturday and Sunday was a bit lower for everyone.

The opening party was last night, I was late to it because I had a sporadic Skype conversation with Mr H, which involved me having to sit on the floor just inside my bedroom door to pick up good enough connection, which then kept dropping. Still we managed a bit of a conversation and then agreed that email letters were going to be a lot less stressful. Anyway, I did get to the party in time to get some pasta and rice and red wine, and chat to a few people before heading off to bed (refusing an invitation to go out to a local bar since I'd already had my quota for the night!).

The political demonstrations up in Bangkok has meant that I am not really looking forward to my trip home on Sunday, since I change at Bangkok airport (although I am feeling quite homesick for my dusty little house, elderly dog and lovely husband). There is nothing I can do about it, but I am one of those people who imagines the worst in such scenarios - and I know where I get that from! Yesterday the race director here said that when he'd driven from home to Kata the road was blocked by police, and another road was blocked by a truck on its side, so it had taken 1.5 hours instead of 20 minutes. (He is the opposite to me and just takes everything in his stride from stroppy yachties to Thai political tensions, "Oh yes, they're off again, just the same as normal"). Anyway, Oh my god I thought, what is this, rioting on the Phuket streets? But no, the road was closed because of a triathlon that was on, and the truck was just someone not able to drive properly!

So, I shall try not to worry about it or let it spoil my week. Right, time for lunch then on with some work.

Friday, 29 November 2013

Letter from Phuket 1

I am writing this at 5am, I am sitting in bed awake, wishing it wasn’t dark outside so I could go for a swim. I’m back in Phuket (Thailand) for the 6th time for the King’s Cup yachting regatta. It feels very familiar although a few vital things have changed, such as the colour of the pool towels and sunbeds…

I still get the little butterflies of ‘will it all go ok? Will I cope?’ when I think about the manic two days of regatta registration coming up. Silly though because it always goes OK and on Sunday night it all comes together, and I finally close my laptop satisfied that everyone has a legal certificate and they can go racing on Monday morning.

Heathrow terminal 3 never seems to change. I shopped in Boots and had tea in Costa, and got invited by a man to have my photo taken next to a cardboard cutout of the Queen as I was idly inspecting the Royal Wedding gift shelves. I said ‘no thank you, I’m English’ which made it sound as though I could have my photo taken with the Queen any day of the week.

My flight out was uneventful and I had two seats to myself, in fact the plane was very empty. Clearly Wednesday is not a popular travelling day! I spent most of the 11.5 hr flight to Bangkok not sleeping. I read an entire Dick Francis novel which I then left on the plane to be recycled, and watched a couple of episodes of an American drama called ‘Nashville’, about a country singer and her family, and of course an up-and-coming rival singer. There was then a couple of hours at Bangkok before a 90 minute flight down to Phuket and an hour’s taxi ride to the hotel.


Having arrived at Kata Beach at around midday yesterday (Thursday), I just wanted to sleep and did manage a couple of hours dozing, but was totally out of sync and it feels wrong being in bed in the middle of the day. A quick walk on the beach confirmed yet again that this is definitely not my ideal holiday destination and that Mr H would absolutely hate it. Couples and families either lying on the crowded beach, splashing about in the sea, walking around in skimpy swimwear with their bellies hanging out (male and female) or zooming around on SeaDoos. The majority of tourists here now seem to be Russian, with some Brits and other Europeans thrown in.

So, it’s warm and most of the time it’s sunny. But for holidays give me the Scottish wild lands any day. I dined alone last night, having gone for a stroll into the village (ie. stepped outside the hotel front gates) on impulse I stopped in at an outdoor restaurant and ate Pad Thai (noodles) with prawns and a bottle of Heineken, followed by banana split. It didn’t feel at all odd being in the restaurant on my own and I could watch the world walking by on their way home from the beach, or locals driving past in their pickups and tuktuks but mainly on scooters. A baby elephant went by in the back of a truck, some animal screamed in an alley across the road, and the Russians sitting at the table next to me argued with the waiter about exactly what it was they wanted.


Today we start sail measurement and it is a bit of a warm-up day before tomorrow’s mayhem. I might go back to sleep for half an hour.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Mixing sails and wheels

Some of you will know that in my day job I work in the technical and measurement side of yacht racing and have done for nearly 29 years; over the years sailing has inevitably been a part of my life, which really only changed after the crash. Now that Mr H and I are involved in motorsport I have a whole new set of friends and the two areas of my life are totally separate; there is an overlap of interest between the two sports but I would never see any of my sailing friends at a hill climb, and vice versa. In conversation there are often cross-overs between the two and I'll sometimes allude to an equivalent situation in boats, levels of the sport, grand prix owners etc., but that's as far as it goes.

At one recent hill climb at Wiscombe Park, in conversation with a few of our hill climb friends about kids doing karting with pushy parents, I said something about it being the same in dinghies. Another chap on the edge of the conversation immediately picked up on this, and it transpired that he had done quite a bit of yacht racing down in Devon so we ended up talking about that a bit. After a couple of minutes it was clear that our hill climb friends were totally out of the loop, and I was thinking "Actually I really don't want to talk about boats and my work when I'm here enjoying car stuff".

The situation hadn't come up before, the closest I'd got to talking about work was a vague explanation to driving friends about what I did, mainly because the event commentary form asks for your day job! I keep changing what it says and have just about simplified it down to 'yacht racing admin' which is close enough for the purpose.

At the last event we were at, somebody mentioned boats and said that they sailed and I kept my mouth shut; Mr H commented on it later, having realised that I wanted to keep the two things completely separate he hadn't blurted out 'Oh, J works in yacht racing!'.

It's not that I don't love my job, it's just that I deal with sailors all week, day in day out, and at weekends I'd rather be discussing horse-power and the best line round the hairpin...

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Feeling bereft

I am feeling bereft,
Of inspiration
And of intriguing avenues,
Down which my thoughts might
Rush with the abandon of
A puppy on a new scent.

I yearn for text books,
Pencil notes in the margin;
Question marks where my scurrying mind has
Asked "Is it really as simple as that?"

I miss the challenge of a new subject,
The fear of lacking ability;
The new-found confidence in an area
Into which I haven't ventured before.

I am feeling bereft
Without my Open University course.
It seems months since my exam,
And how I looked forward to the break.

Yet January holds the promise
Of a parcel in the post.
How I now long for those words
'Educational Material"

And provoking conversations.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Mind over matter

An interesting thing has come to my attention this week. For the last few weeks my leg has been giving me trouble, ie. pain. I have started having remedial massage therapy to try and break down the scar tissue on the muscle on the outer thigh, just two sessions so far. It hurts quite a lot while she is doing it, but feels amazing afterwards - no pain at all! But then it wears off after a couple of days.

This week, my mother has gone down with pneumonia again, and the dog has contracted gastro-enteritis, so I've had a bit to think about. Thankfully Mum has been transferred to hospital, later than she should have been. My poor father had to cope with a couple of falls and confusion caused by low oxygen levels, it's a good thing we live close by and they have other good friends who stood in while we were away at the weekend. Now at least Mum will get the treatment she needs.

Meanwhile Django became ill on Sunday while we were away and the vet thinks it is gastro-enteritis, his kidneys, liver and bloods looking generally ok. There is one more test to do for his pancreas which we have not had the results for yet. So, he has an upset tummy and right now he can't go into kennels as was planned this weekend.

So, the interesting thing I have noticed is that while I've been worrying about Mum and Django my leg has been hurting less. Even after some lawn-mowing yesterday evening, and having forgotten to take the Dihydrocodeine the last two days.

I think this goes to show how powerful a painkiller distraction can be!

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Modesty

When I go for scar tissue massage therapy on my leg, she covers me up with a big towel, which seems kind of pointless considering how many professional medical people have seen me almost naked over the last 3 years. I don't care what she sees but rules is rules, eh?

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Bucking the norm

Will it ever become the norm NOT to drink alcohol, I was wondering today?  

Other things change:  tattoos, once an exception are now mainstream. Smoking, once the norm is now more the exception. 

Alcohol intake seems to have become more the norm than ever before. Is it the state of the world driving everyone to drink?  Can people not cope with life without 'dutch courage'?  To stand up and say 'I am teetotal' these days would be met with howls of incredulity (at least amongst 99% of the people I know).

I find it increasingly annoying that it is such an effort NOT to drink alcohol; or even to talk about not drinking alcohol. I was pretty impressed with myself that I managed to go to a regatta in Ireland, of all places, and not drink anything for four days.  Anyone involved in sailing or Ireland will appreciate the challenge of doing this without being taken away by the men in white coats.

This morning I was chatting to a couple of girls at the fitness studio and saying that my leg has been pretty painful the last couple of weeks, and perhaps I should cut out any alcohol in case it's blocking the effects of the painkillers.  "Nooo," said one of them, "You need to drink MORE!"


It's as though it's some kind of automatic response to anything - "Drink more, drink more, drink more, baaaaa, baaaa, baaaa...." Is it because they drink more than they perhaps should, and subliminally feel bad about it and react by telling people to drink more? Is it because they think people who don't drink are 'boring'? (don't get me started, I recently nearly wrote a whole blog post about the concept of 'boring').  I'm no goody-goody and enjoy a glass of wine in an evening, and perhaps a tipple of whisky or port or Baileys, depending on what is in the cupboard. But I now hate being even remotely drunk (even just to the state of thinking I'm not really fully in control of my faculties and would struggle to bother fighting back if I had to) and I actually have a lot more fun on a night out if I stay stone cold sober. 

Others just don't seem to grasp this concept at all and it is so tiring when it is necessary to constantly refuse a drink; or in some cases make sure the Coke I ordered does not have rum surreptitiously added to it.

Before the howls of protest and 'don't be so boring' start, I don't begrudge other people drinking at all, as long as it doesn't detrimentally affect others' wellbeing.  Just don't make me feel like a pariah when I don't want to join you - let me have my Coke / orange juice / water / one glass of wine without making a big deal of it, because I'm a lot more fun when I'm not pissed off!

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Loners Unite!

The older I get, the more I enjoy going to social things or away on work trips on my own rather than with a friend or work colleague(s). I don't count Mr H in this because he and I think alike, but with girlfriends I feel trapped. I end up not talking to many other people, and they seem incapable of doing anything on their own and insist I go into the same shops, or to the ladies or to the bar with them, or to talk to people THEY want to talk to.

When I go on my own I talk to more different people, do what I like, eat when I like, drink the amount I like with no pressure, and go home or to bed when I like. Having the company of clingy friends now irritates me enormously, however much I like them.

I think I have joined the Loners. And I like it that way!

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Letting it all go

I never take a mirror camping.  It matters not to me that I can't see what I look like when I wake up, and as Mr H doesn't scream when he sees me I'm guessing it's not that bad.  When camping, I wear no makeup and don't wash and style my hair every day; the whole point of a camping holiday is escape from everyday life, pressures, worries, 'normality'.

I've never understood women (or men for that matter) who clearly have their normal bathroom / make up routine every day when they are camping - just let it go.  Relax, stop worrying about what you look like in the holiday photos. Kick back and be at one with nature.

I know that some people CANNOT go out in public without makeup on and their hair perfect (or that perfectly messy that takes hours to achieve).  I am not one of those people.  I never wore much makeup when I was young, and now it is pretty much limited to mascara (only because I have really short eyelashes), and maybe some powder if it's a special occasion. Yes, I'm pretty lazy in the makeup department unless it is a really special occasion when I'll dig out some eye shadow...

Talking about hair, having been through the phase of liking the novelty of it straightened, I am now enjoying the wildness of curly, 'whatever' hair. It is freeing and makes me feel less like a clone of everyone else with a straight bob haircut. The only time my hair is straight now is when it has just been cut - and that is mainly because the curls don't sit naturally when they've been pulled around, dried, scrunched and tweaked.  So I have a couple of days of smart, straight hair every 6 weeks, and then I revert to the 'dragged through hedge backwards' look, and just let it all go...

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

The Worm


I'm sitting on the veranda, not a breath of wind, warm and muggy, and actually looking forward to a Scottish breeze. 

My Crime and Justice exam was last week and went ok.. I'm not sure whether that is a good thing or whether I didn't struggle enough! Now we are off for the post exam holiday, and I can't wait to be away from the southern uk rat race. 

Maybe it's age but I am getting less tolerant of Idiots. I'm also far less of a nice doormat than I used to be; I actually said 'no I can't do it' to two people this afternoon at work, and felt good about it! In the past I've have got myself stressed trying to please people who ask for unimportant things at the last minute, but not now. Most things can wait and if they can't then I will bust a gut to get them done.  I don't take things at face value any more, after 4 years of having to back up facts with references! and 

I generally give people the benefit of the doubt, but I'm much more assertive (not rude), making up for 40+ years of trying to please everyone, which is hard work.

Perhaps this worm has turned...

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Work/study crossover

Last week's Americas Cup sailing tragedy, where a crew member died while training on one of the super-fast 72 ft catamarans, has brought up an interesting overlap between my work in yacht racing, and my degree studies on crime v. harm: I'm thinking about the self-regulation of high-level (and high finance) sports, and internal investigations into 'accidents', and how this could be seen as corporate crime/harm.

It's also worrying how (although we might all deny it) things like this can become accepted as a risk of the sport that the competitors knowingly sign up for, I have no doubt that disclaimers abound in the contracts. 

Would you go and work in an 'ordinary' job for an amazing company doing something you loved, but knowing that one day you might not come home from work? Do workers in factories have different rights to those enjoying themselves? What is the difference between company responsibilities in the workplace, and professional sailing where the sailors are effectively employees?

The AC investigation has to be completed in time for the racing start at the beginning of July; well, they wouldn't want to upset the TV schedules. So, don't worry everyone, the show will go on! After all, it's all about the money.....

And, as in car racing, some of the Americas Cup spectators will be watching in the hope that there will be a big crash; and that is a whole different question about human nature.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

May already...?

Hello, yep I haven't really been here.  But not for bad reasons, life is good. And full!

My head has either been deep in an essay about Climate Change and how international responses to it cause as much harm as they are trying to alleviate (4000 words), or getting the classic car ready for its first hillclimb.  Oh and learning PR and how to write work press releases, and taking time to workout at the fitness studios which are my third home.

And now its May, and all my essays are in so I only (ONLY!) have revision to do for my exam on June 12th.  I haven't even set out a revision plan yet and do seem to have perfected procrastination. 

We did our first hillclimb of the season last weekend, Alex's very first time.  It's so good having something fun and challenging to do together, which is competitive but also mutually supportive when we achieve another 10th of a second off our time!  

I had to have my photo taken with the British Women Racing Drivers' Club sticker and the badge on my suit, in order to claim points towards their championship, so here it is for your amusement.  Mad hair day :)



This evening I did my first sailing club safety boat duty, and tractor driving (to launch/recover the boats) for three years.  I'd forgotten how much of an upper body workout you get with the tractor, it's 1964 and wouldn't know what power steering was if you mentioned it! 

It was a beautiful, if chilly, evening out on the river and it was good to get out and think about something else.





Thursday, 14 March 2013

Information overload

My head might possibly explode soon, it is being over-fed.  Just one more wafer thin mint....?

I have just submitted Assignment no.4 which was a tricky one about globalisation, justice and human rights.  The progress went from bawling "I-can't-do-it tears" to completion in 5 days, not bad. 

Assignment no.5 is 'the big one', a 4000 word independent essay. In other words the full essay from a question we created ourselves from choice of topics, and previously wrote an essay plan for. Since that was now some time ago I'm going to have to remind myself what it was all about, and of my tutor's feedback. I do know that it involved climate change and power relations.  Of course other students on the forum are saying things like "Oh yes, I just have to pad out my essay plan and it's done."  Really? no changes to make after the feedback? I always wish I hadn't looked at the forum.

I just made the mistake of reading a tutorial on the OU website about 'Information and how to find it'.  I wish I hadn't looked at that either.

I think I'm going to switch off my brain now and have a glass of wine instead.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Brain issues

The last 'normal' essay I wrote was before Christmas, and I feel as though I have forgotten how to write one! The assignment I have done since Christmas was a Plan for the long 4000 word essay we have to do in April, so that was very different.

Assignment no.4 is due on March 14th and I feel slightly in denial about starting on it, but thankfully I have a tutorial on Saturday so that should help!

..........................

One of my work colleagues recently had a 'chat' with the boss about her production levels. Her response was to come into work early and leave late the last couple of days (unnecessary for getting the work done) and note down how much she had invoiced (we don't work on commission and this is irrelevant information).  I was interested how her interpretation of what would 'fix it' is totally different to mine. If I had been given the same 'chat' I would look at my time management and priorities. But I suppose that difference is the reason that she gets The Chat, and I don't.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Balancing act

Recently I have noticed that I have been spending more time at Shape Up Studios, and less time studying. At least, it feels that way.

The studios are good fun and I have unconsciously increased my evenings there from 3 times a week to 4 or 5.  During the week I usually go straight from work, unless I'm doing a 6.30 class in which case I go home first. It's my equivalent of going to a wine bar to meet friends, chat and have a laugh.. only more healthy and less expensive!

I thought that I was missing out on early evening studying time, but actually when I think about it Mr H and I spend the first 45 minutes after work sitting having a cup of tea and ranting to each other about our days at work ;)  OK it's not always a rant, lets say 'we tell each other about our days'.   So perhaps going to the studios isn't interfering with the studying after all, it gives Mr H some chilling/guitar playing time, and we still catch up on our day's news when I get home.

In the mornings Mr H takes Django out for half an hour for a constitutional, and I have started spending that time studying, and leaving the washing up until he gets back since I can talk at the same time.  I still need some longer study periods especially as I will soon be working on my next essay, so I will need to fit that in to my day.

I nearly wrote 'schedule it', but I wrote on Twitter recently that 'I abhor routine', and I do.  I particularly hate it in other people who can't adapt because they *always* eat at dot on 6.30pm and the dog *has* to be walked at 4.15pm. The mornings are the only time we do have a routine, because it works for us. In the evenings we do whatever needs doing and at some point remember that we need to eat.

Everything is adaptable to find the right balance.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Gold stars?

I feel like a kid going to report to the headmaster, as I have my annual 'MOT' check-up at the doctor's this afternoon. 

This time last year I was still a bit discombobulated from Mr H being away and then being home, he had been back about a month at that point.  I was on 2 painkillers a day and was 71kg, the heaviest I've ever been.

This year things are settled down with Mr H home and everything's going well. I've been going to the gym since May and am now just about 65kg, and more inches than that smaller (since I have put on muscle which is heavier than fat).  I stopped the painkillers in January for a couple of weeks, but found I needed them to cope with going to the gym!  I am now on 1/2 or one a day depending on what I am doing that day.  I'm certainly happier than I was this time last year and hopefully won't burst into tears in the surgery as I have the last 3 or 4 times I've seen her, when she's asked how I am. That will be progress in itself.

So, I'm hoping this afternoon my doctor is going to pat me on the head and give me a gold star for progress!

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Marriage

I was chatting with a friend this afternoon, who is coming up to the first anniversary of her second marriage.  We were discussing the 'official' anniversary gifts for each year as she said that they had agreed to have a big celebration every five years rather than wait for 25!    I said 'What's the gift for 24 years?' as that will be our anniversary in April 2013.  She didn't know, but asked me - what is the secret of a long and happy marriage?

I don't know why 'long' and 'happy' always go together, because when you've been married a long time, unless you are one of those horribly perfect couples on the inside as well as the outside, the chances are it hasn't always been a bed of roses.  But anyway, getting back to the question....

I instantly said 'Communication'.  

Over the last 24 years, things have variously been bottled up; written in a diary instead of talking about them; or simply left unsaid. At some point diaries were discontinued, and in fact destroyed - a clean sheet of paper, as it were. But with no paper involved. It was a good start to talking more.

I followed it up with 'Sending them away for a year helps too'.

We chuckled but it's true. There is nothing like not having someone around all the time to make you realise how much they mean to you, and perhaps how much you take them for granted.  And the communication flourished for being on writing paper, in an envelope with a postage stamp.  I'm not suggesting that it would work for everyone, but it was good for us.

'And lastly', I said, 'go through a traumatic experience together'.

Having to support each other, and in our case one being reliant on the other to some extent, is a big ask for a relationship.  I'm sure in some cases it can cause massive strain, stress and resentment but in our case it brought us even closer together (at least, if Mr H resents any of it, he hasn't told me!)

So there you have it, my recipe for a long marriage:  Communication, Absence and Trauma.

You could probably leave out the last two.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Obligations

The little orange 'Blogger' icon winks at me from my Favourites bar. Come on it says, haven't you got anything to say, just a teeny weeny bit of something you'd like to share? 

I'm too busy, I'm at work, I've only got five minutes, I can't think of anything interesting. I DID think of something but now I've forgotten it.  Hmmm.

I'm not going to apologise, because this is my page.  I can write on it or not, as I wish. I was going to say that one should never apologise for not doing something unless one is contractually obligated to do it, but then I realised that there are few things that we are contractually obligated to do.  Employment, paying the mortgage, all sorts of financial things, marriage perhaps (especially if you are the sort of person who likes a Pre-Nup) - but probably nothing you couldn't buy your way out of.

That then made me think that argument was weak, but is it?  Do we have to apologise for things that we haven't done, when nobody asked us to do it (or said we must) in the first place?  Surely we should only need to apologise for things we HAVE done, which we shouldn't have.  Or is there a moral obligation to do things, an unspoken code of society and when we break it by not doing something we are not obligated to do, we feel guilty and have to apologise. Especially if we are British.

Last night Mr H and I watched a video on Facebook which was a montage of clips of 'the general public' doing Good Deeds such as holding doors open for a blind person, picking up a toy that a child has thrown out of a pram, preventing someone stepping front of a car, or helping a bully victim up from the floor. In each clip there was a 3rd party wordlessly watching the Good Deed be done, we assumed that they were supposed to be thinking 'I could do that'.  I complained that it was depressing that people made such a big thing (ie. making a film and spreading it around the internet) about what to me seem basic courteous actions and attitudes.  Mr H, on the other hand said that it acted as a reminder to people just how easy it is to do simple things to help others out, things that are done on impulse in an instant and take no time or trouble out of your day.  I can see his point but I still mourn the fact that those actions are an exception rather than a rule, allegedly.

I say allegedly carefully, because we can be told that society is now rude, unsociable, unfriendly and uncaring, but is that actually the case?  or is actually the norm to not slam a door in someone's face, or to help someone push their broken down car off the road, but the internet and the media think it is better to paint a grim picture of near Armageddon where no-one cares about anyone else, and we're all going to hell in a hand-cart?

Are people actually regularly complying with their moral obligations more than we are led to believe?

Friday, 4 January 2013

Breathe in peace...

My resolution of 'don't let people wind me up' is being tested now I'm back at work.

Not with customers but with the reminder that it is like living in a student house. Sink perpetually full of cold water with a teaspoon or two at the bottom. Coffee spills on the workstop. Half eaten packets of food that seem to spread. All little things that don't really matter but still irritate.

A friend of mine posted a picture on Facebook recently that said

"Breathe in Peace
Breathe out Love"

Normally I take those sort of phrases with a pinch of salt, but that one seemed to stick in my head. Reminding myself of it helped me get through a few moments over Christmas when I was worrying about things, feeling stressed or thinking uncharitable thoughts about people! 

Try it next time you are feeling wound up, and combine it with a deep breath in and a deep breath out, it works for me...

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Beating demons

Happy New Year to you all!   Today the sun came out, it has been raining seemingly constantly for the last couple of months so it was lovely to see the big yellow sky thing.

Mr H, Django and I went off for a walk on the Forest, which is still very wet underfoot but with blue skies everything was feeling spring like.   I decided that today would be a good day to drive That Bit of Road, which I haven't been on since June 2010; it coincided with the place we had chosen to walk and was one option for the starting point. 

I felt a bit nervous going up there, but when we came to go home so were going the same direction as when the crash happened, it was actually fine. Neither of us mentioned it although we were both aware of it and I had said about going that route.  The main thing I noticed was that I couldn't work out where exactly the spot was that we had ended up between the trees - nowhere looked as though there was enough space without hitting a tree. Something else (part of a LONG list) to be grateful for, perhaps. 

So, I have started the New Year by beating that particular demon.  I don't know if there will come a day when I don't think of it at least once, but at least this is a good start.

I wish you all a happy, peaceful and fulfilling 2013!

Juniper x